Share

Auto Accidents

Monday, February 15, 2016

I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt. Can I still sue?

It is well accepted that wearing a seatbelt greatly reduces the risk of injury in an automobile accident. It is designed to keep a car’s occupant from being thrown around the passenger compartment or even ejected from the vehicle. It is significantly more dangerous to ride in an automobile without wearing one. That is why all cars are required to have them installed and almost every state has passed a law requiring drivers and passengers to wear their seatbelts. The answer to whether a person who fails to observe these laws can still collect money for injuries by filing a lawsuit depends entirely on the state.

In some jurisdictions, if an individual is not wearing a seatbelt, he or she may be barred from recovering any compensation for his or her injuries. These states are Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, South Dakota, and Washington DC. This is called contributory negligence.

In other states, a different system is used. A jury must determine what percentage of a plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt. The court will then reduce the award by that percentage. The states that follow this system are Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington. This system is known as comparative negligence.

All other states use a hybrid system to determine whether or not a person can recover in a car accident when he or she was not wearing a seatbelt. If more than half of that individual’s injuries were caused by his or her failure to wear a seatbelt, he or she may not collect damages in court.

Even though the law varies from state to state, in every state, failure to wear a seatbelt can significantly reduce, or even completely bar, a person’s ability to recover damages and be made whole after a traffic accident. The law is meant to compensate a person for what he or she has lost through no fault of his or her own. The law says that failure to wear a seatbelt places some of that fault on the victim in a car accident.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Auto Recalls and the Dangers They Seek to Avoid

Automakers recall millions of vehicles every year. A recall seeks to reach out to consumers to return faulty products, mistakenly put in the marketplace, for repair. In 2014, more than 60 million vehicles were recalled, nearly doubling the previous record set in 2004. These automobiles all had some sort of defect. Some of the defects, while annoying, were not of serious concern, such as a faulty air conditioners, while others resulted in significant safety issues, like problems with the ignition switches, brakes, or steering. Honda issued a recall of 14 million vehicles because its airbags might shoot sharp pieces of metal into the car when deploying.

Of the 60 million cars that were recalled in 2014, less than half were actually repaired. Consumers may not be aware of the recall. Cars change hands several times, and dealers have trouble reaching out to everyone who might have the car. Several major car manufacturers have been caught purposely misleading regulators and consumers about recalls to save money. Toyota recently paid a $1.2 billion fine for this improper action. Even when everyone is aware that a recall has been issued, a consumer may not prioritize it. When consumers are able to bring their automobiles in for the recall, the part necessary for the repair may be unavailable, especially on older model cars that are no longer in production.

This leaves millions of automobiles on the road every year that may pose significant safety issues. Wiring issues can increase the risk of car fires. Vehicle components could break resulting in loss of control of the vehicle. Seat belts might be defective. Windshield wipers might not work properly. All of these problems make the roads less safe for drivers of these vehicles and everyone else on the road.

If a consumer is injured as a result of an issue caused by an automobile defect, he or she may have a substantial claim against the auto manufacturer. If the defect has caused a collision, the car company may be responsible for all injuries. A consultation with an experienced attorney is necessary to determine whether or not a claim is viable in a particular situation. 

 


Monday, September 28, 2015

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash occurs when a person suffers a sudden impact that causes the head to snap forwards, backwards, or sideways. The violent force of this jerking motion causes the muscles, tendons, and ligaments to stretch or tear. Such injuries are sometimes classified as sprains or strains of the neck. Whiplash is most commonly the result of a car accident, but can also be the result of participation in contact sports like football, or from being the victim of an act of violence. Any time the neck is hyperextended or hyperflexed, a person is at risk for whiplash.

Symptoms of whiplash include muscle soreness, stiffness, and tenderness. Victims also typically suffer reduced range of motion. Other common maladies associated with whiplash include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, jaw pain, numbness and weakness in the extremities. Some people with whiplash experience ringing in their ears, blurred vision, and memory problems, though these symptoms are less common. Many people ignore whiplash symptoms which may prolong or worsen their consequences. Those who blame the soreness and stiffness of whiplash  on sleeping in an uncomfortable position and dismiss the pain as temporary often fail to seek treatment in a timely fashion. This can lead to more serious problems, including depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. It is important to seek medical attention and to treat whiplash symptoms as soon as possible after an accident in order to avoid complications. 

Doctors' opinions vary on the best way to treat whiplash symptoms. Different doctors may recommend icing the affected area, using painkillers or drugs to numb the pain, using a neck brace or collar to immobilize the neck, physical therapy and exercises to stretch the sore muscles, acupuncture, massage, or chiropractic manipulation. Many physicians may recommend a combination of strategies. Only a licensed medical professional is qualified to give advice on how to treat whiplash. 

An skilled attorney can handle the legal aspects of the accident to help ensure that the injured party can concentrate on the important work of physical recovery. The lawyer will obtain police reports, witness statements and other evidence to prepare a lawsuit against the individual responsible for the whiplash injury.  The lawyer will also document medical expenses, seek approval for required tests, and file a claim or a lawsuit on behalf of an injured party. The lawyer’s experience in dealing with insurance companies ensures that victims of whiplash-related injuries are reimbursed for their pain and suffering as well as for their medical expenses. 


Monday, September 7, 2015

What Do Insurance Policy Limits Mean for My Case?

An individual who causes a injuries to another person can be held economically responsible for those injuries by a court of law. Anticipating this, the law requires that those participating in potentially dangerous activities, such as driving, carry liability insurance to cover costs in case such an injury occurs. These insurance policies are meant to cover the damages suffered by a potential victim in a personal injury case. There are limits to what these policies cover, though they vary based on how much an insured person is willing to pay as a monthly premium. 

If a person is insured for up to $100,000, that individual’s insurance company will pay out up to $100,000.00 for substantiated damages suffered by the victim. If that victim’s injuries are more substantial, that is, if a jury awards more than $100,000, the balance of the money must be paid by the individual who is at fault instead of by the insurance company. 

An individual without insurance is often referred to as “judgment proof” meaning that, even if a jury awards a verdict against that person, the judgment that results cannot be enforced against him or her. As the saying goes, “you cannot get blood from a stone.” If a plaintiff in a personal injury case attempts to enforce a judgment against a defendant who lacks insurance coverage, the defendant may avoid paying by crying poverty and filing for bankruptcy. Such action may discharge the debts depending on the nature of the injuries and the accident. Similarly, any portion of a judgment owed by an insured individual without personal funds will be nearly impossible to collect. 

As a result, regardless of how much an individual has suffered as a result of the negligence of another, the amount he or she is able to collect is limited to the size of the defendant’s insurance policy. It is impractical to push a case to settle above the policy when it is nearly impossible to collect additional money. This pushes cases in which an individual has suffered catastrophic injuries to settle for substantially less than they might be able to receive if they were to go to trial. Although this seems unfair,  a lawsuit is the only practical way to resolve these disputes when a defendant’s insurance policy limits are too small to cover the plaintiff’s pain and suffering.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Importance of Credible Accident Reconstruction Testimony

If you have been injured in an automobile collision, your attorney may require the assistance of an experienced accident expert to help prove who is at fault for the accident. Generally, in order to recover any compensation for your injuries or property damage, you will have to prove that the other party was somehow negligent. Accident reconstruction experts are professionals who have obtained specialized training in order to analyze the physics of the accident scene, determine vehicle speeds and movements, and effectively communicate their findings to the court or insurance company representatives.

These professionals come from a variety of backgrounds, including science education, engineering, or law enforcement who have undertaken special training. These experts can evaluate the scene of the accident, develop calculations and assessments regarding how the accident occurred or how damages were sustained, and can testify to these facts and findings before a judge or jury. They do so by offering a variety of services, including site visits to the scene of the accident, taking photos, interviewing witnesses, applying the applicable scientific principles and preparing a final report. That report often forms basis for the expert’s testimony in court. Generally, the importance of the accident reconstructionist’s testimony is directly tied to the complexity or controversial nature of the accident in question.

Expert testimony regarding how an accident occurred is key to settlement negotiations. Using illustrations, simulations, models, animations and other methods, accident reconstructionists can show exactly what happened, how it happened, and how it could have been prevented.  Even if there are photographs of crash scenes and medical records, these can usually demonstrate the severity of the accident or damages sustained rather than proving who was at fault.

Usually, both sides hire their own reconstruction experts and, not surprisingly, those reports often conflict with one another. When this happens, the experts' credibility becomes a key issue. As in every case where there is conflicting testimony, the decision-makers must make a determination regarding which expert to believe.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What is soft tissue damage and how is it treated?

Soft tissue damage refers to damage done to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons throughout the body.  Often referred to as sprains, strains, contusions and tendonitis, soft tissue damage is usually caused by a traumatic event such as a slip and fall or a traffic accident.  It can result in swelling, bruising, and loss of function.   Immediately after an injury, the area affected by soft tissue damage should be protected, rested from any strenuous activity, kept cool with ice to regulate swelling, compressed and elevated.  If pain continues after 72 hours, it is likely that the injury is more than a simple sprain or strain.  When the soft tissue is inflamed for a long period of time it could result in serious, long-term damage.

When soft tissue damage exists in the back and the spinal column is compressed, it may result in what is commonly referred to as a pinched nerve.  Each vertebrae is separated by a gel filled sac that acts as a cushion between the bones.  When the muscles surrounding and supporting the spine are inflamed, it pushes the bones together, squeezing the sac and causing it to bulge, called a bulging disc.  In more serious cases, the sac actually ruptures.  This is called a herniated disc.  Besides being incredibly painful, these conditions can result in weakness or numbness in the extremities, known as radiculopathy.

MRI can confirm the existence of a bulging or herniated disc.  Treatment varies depending on the severity of the case.  For some, physical therapy and chiropractic manipulation will be enough to heal the damaged area.  This is considered conservative treatment.  There is the possibility that an epidural injection to the affected area could help reduce inflammation and give the injury an opportunity to heal.  If nothing else is successful, spinal fusion or decompression may be an option to reduce pain. A doctor should be consulted before engaging in any sort of treatment.  


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What are punitive damages?

Punitive damages are a special class of damages paid by a defendant in a lawsuit.  They are not designed to compensate the injured party for any damages suffered, but instead to punish the defendant for some egregious action and to discourage others from enaging in that specific behavior.  Punitive damages are reserved for special cases where a defendant’s behavior is extraordinarily bad. 

In order for a case to be considered for punitive damages, the defendant had to have acted willfully. For example, if a company decided to take a product to market, knowing that it had a dangerous defect, it could be held accountable for punitive damages.. It does not make sense to allow punitive damages in a case where only negligent behavior is alleged because, presumably, a negligent action was an accident and there is little need for deterrence.

When a court decides on a punitive damage award, it will consider how bad the conduct in question really was, as well as the wealth of the defendant.  After all, being forced to pay $10,000.00 is a much greater punishment for a person earning $50,000 a year than someone earning $50,000,000 a year.  Even though their purpose is not to compensate a plaintiff for injuries, usually punitive damages are paid to the plaintiff, leaving him or her in a much better position than he or she was in before a lawsuit was filed. 

The United States is one of the few countries in the world that permits punitive damages.  They are also common in China, Australia, and New Zealand.  In parts of the United Kingdom, they are available in very limited circumstances.  In Japan and most of Europe, it is nearly impossible to get a punitive damage award.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Common Injuries in Automobile Accidents

If you have been involved in an automobile accident, you may be seriously injured and not even realize it. At least, not immediately. Serious injury can occur even in slow or low-impact collisions, and accidents which cause no damage to the vehicle. For example, accident victims can suffer from “whiplash” in collisions involving a sudden change in vehicle speed of just 2.5 miles per hour.    

Motor vehicle collision injuries range from minor cuts and scrapes to catastrophic, life-ending trauma.  Bleeding, broken bones or bruising are obvious indications that a driver or passenger has sustained an injury and needs treatment. However, there are also less-obvious injuries that are much more difficult to diagnose and treat, including myofascial injury (“whiplash”) and mild traumatic brain injury.

“Whiplash” is one of the most common auto accident injuries. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recognizes whiplash as “a range of neck injuries related to sudden distortions of the neck that commonly occur in rear-end crashes.” Specifically, this term may refer to a cervical strain, cervical sprain or hyperextension injury. Any sudden impact, even at very low speeds, can cause a whiplash injury to the ligaments, muscles and vertebrae in the neck or back, although the damage may not become apparent for several hours or days. A whiplash injury can be mild, such as a muscle strain, or more severe, including nerve or disc damage, ruptured ligaments or vertebrae fractures.

Treatments for whiplash can include ice, anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen), physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, muscle relaxants, massage therapy, or immobilization of the neck or back with a cervical collar or brace. In cases involving severe muscle or ligament damage, cervical traction or surgery may be required. Recovery time for a whiplash injury is typically between a few weeks and three months. Untreated whiplash victims can suffer lasting effects, including chronic pain, an increased susceptibility to future neck or back injuries and posture problems.

Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) is a high-level concussion, defined by the Brain Injury Association of America as a “physical injury to the brain that causes a disruption of normal functioning.” MTBI involves a loss of consciousness or loss of memory before or after the accident. There are a wide range of MTBI injuries, from a temporary disruption of normal brain activity to permanent brain changes that affect how a person functions physically, mentally, emotionally and behaviorally. Early MTBI symptoms can include mild symptoms, such as headache, dizziness or confusion. In later stages, MTBI sufferers can face difficulty concentrating, irritability, anxiety, depression, fatigue or a quick temper. These later stage symptoms can be difficult to attribute to the auto accident because they only become apparent long after the injury was sustained.

In the immediate aftermath of an accident, the body’s natural physiological responses often mask the soft-tissue injuries that can occur. But once your body has had a chance to relax, you may experience a number of symptoms related to the accident, including neck and back pain, limited range of motion, muscle spasms, headaches, dizziness, difficulty maintaining balance or equilibrium, shooting pains, muscle soreness, numbness or tingling in the extremities, emotional and behavioral disturbances, or memory and concentration difficulties.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bringing a Claim for Injuries When the Accident Was Partly Your Fault

In order to prevail in a personal injury case, you must be able to prove that your injuries were directly caused by the negligent actions of another. If you can prove that your injuries were at least partly caused by another, you may be able to receive compensation for your medical expenses, physical and emotional pain and suffering, permanent physical impairment or disfigurement, lost income, decreased earning capacity, property damage, or other economic losses.

If you have been injured in an accident, you may be entitled to recover compensation from anyone else who partially caused the accident, even if the accident was partly your own fault. The legal theories of “contributory negligence” and “comparative negligence” apply in cases where the plaintiff in a lawsuit was partially responsible for his or her own injuries.

“Contributory negligence” means the injured person’s actions, at least to some extent caused his or her own injuries. For example, someone who ignores a “Caution: Wet Floor” sign and subsequently slips and falls may be deemed to have been careless and, thus, at fault for his or her injuries. As such, contributory negligence can prevent the injured person from recovering any compensation, even when his or her carelessness was minor as compared to the fault of the other party. In some states, accident victims are entitled to recover compensation only if they can prove that the other party’s fault was greater.

In some jurisdictions, the concept of contributory negligence has fallen out of favor and is no longer applied. Instead, it has been replaced with the concept of “comparative negligence.” Comparative negligence means that the fault for causing an accident is compared among all parties, typically broken down as a percentage of fault attributed to each party. When this occurs, the monetary recovery awarded to the injured plaintiff is reduced by his or her percentage of fault. For example, if you were injured in a car accident that was determined to be 25% your fault, your monetary recovery from the other driver’s insurance company would be limited to 75% of the amount of your damages from the accident, an amount equal to that driver’s percentage of fault for causing the accident. By applying the concept of comparative negligence, each party is held accountable only for his or her percentage of fault for causing the injuries.

You may be deemed to be partially at fault for your injuries if you have failed to act with reasonably prudent care under the circumstances of the accident, or if you voluntarily assume a portion of the risk by exposing yourself to danger, such as by failing to use the available restraints on an amusement park ride or ignoring a posted warning sign.

The total value of your claim is based on many factors, including how easily fault can be apportioned among the parties, the seriousness of your injuries, medical treatments received and insurance coverage limits. Once the claim’s total value is established and the percentages are applied, a final figure for the injured plaintiff’s compensation can be determined.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Choosing a Litigation Attorney

If circumstances have required you to get involved in litigation, you may find the process of selecting an attorney to be overwhelming.  There are, however, some steps you can take to make the selection process a bit easier.

First, you should consider hiring someone who specializes in your type of case. If you had an automobile accident, consider hiring an attorney who exclusively practices personal injury law and preferably one with a track record of success in car accident cases. If you were wrongfully fired, hire a litigator with experience in employment rights.

Since you and the attorney you choose will be working very closely together, it’s important to choose someone with whom you feel comfortable.   How long has the attorney been practicing law? Has the attorney ever handled a case like yours before? What was the outcome? How much are fees and how are they paid? Does the attorney seem like he or she is concerned about your case? Does the attorney seem knowledgeable about the area of law?   Does the attorney articulate himself clearly and effectively?  Does he have a credible and trustworthy demeanor?  Remember, a judge or jury may be making the same assessments down the line.   

With respect to fees, most attorneys will take a personal injury case on a contingency basis, meaning that you only pay if they succeed, typically about one-third of the judgment or settlement amount.  You may be able to negotiate the percentage, especially if your damages are significant and your case against the potential defendant strong.  In addition to contingency fee structure, you should also be aware that many attorneys will bill for “out of pocket expenses” such as $0.25 per page for photocopies, $1.00 per page for faxes and cost of hiring experts and consultants.  Again, depending on the strength of your case, you may be able to negotiate these terms.  If you’re involved in a commercial or contract dispute, most such cases are billed on an hourly basis.  If you’re a plaintiff, a hybrid fee structure whereby you would pay a lower hourly fee but provide the lawyer with a percentage of the settlement may be an interesting option.

It’s also a good idea to find out how long the attorney believes the case will take. Obviously, many factors are beyond your attorney’s control, but you should be able to determine a general timeline and what type of resources the attorney will commit to your case.   It’s also important to know how you will be kept updated throughout the proceeding. It can be very frustrating if your attorney does not keep you informed on the status of your case. Ask the attorney how he or she plans to communicate with you and how often you can expect a status report.

Choosing an attorney is a big decision. Before you decide to choose one based on the number of television commercials he or she runs, or the size of the yellow pages ad the firm maintains, it’s important to sit down with the attorney to make sure the relationship is the right fit for your case.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Expert Witnesses Can Be the Key to a Lawsuit

In civil cases, plaintiffs have the burden of proving defendants are to blame for their injuries or economic losses by a preponderance of the evidence, which essentially means, that based on the evidence, the defendants were more likely than not responsible for the injuries.  That can be a lot more complicated than it sounds  Expert witnesses can be a critical key to success in winning over the jury and winning these complex matters.

 
Take the case of Margaret Wellinghorst.  In November 2007, she was walking her dog when she tripped on the edge of a trench that had been dug in the road.  She fell and injured her left hand.   With the help of her attorney, to get compensation for her injuries, she sued the companies responsible for creating and filling in the trench and repairing the road.
 
Ms. Wellinghorst had the burden of proving that the defendants owed her a duty of care, defendants breached that duty and as a result, she suffered injuries.  The fact that she tripped over the edge of a trench created by defendants and was injured, simply wasn’t enough to win her case.  She had to prove negligence by defendants.  To do that, an expert witness was introduced to show defendants did something wrong which consequently injured the plaintiff.   
 
Expert witnesses are used to introduce evidence that’s scientific, technical or specialized in nature.  It’s the kind of evidence that the average person isn’t qualified to introduce, or to render a judgment upon, given the facts of the situation.
 
Ms. Wellinghorst’s expert witness was William Poznak, a civil engineer with over 30 years of professional experience.  He examined the roadway, took measurements, took photographs and created a report.  He observed that the section of trench under the road sunk uniformly over the years, while the rest of the road did not.  In a deposition, Mr. Poznak gave the opinion the trench was backfilled improperly, which lead to the surface sinking and Ms. Wellinghorst’s injury.  
 
Mr. Poznak’s opinion was that the defendants did their work negligently.  But all he had was his opinion and that’s not enough.  He couldn’t say why that area of road sank, thus had no facts to back up his opinion.  Defendants’ attorneys brought up two possible tests that he could’ve done to help determine what happened.  Mr. Poznak admitted he had performed neither.  
 
The expert was unable to perform the key role he was hired to do.  He couldn’t explain why the area of the trench sank into the roadway.  If he couldn’t do that, he had no factual basis for his opinion that the defendants did something wrong or did something negligently which resulted in plaintiff’s injuries. Since the plaintiff had no other experts, and Mr. Poznak’s testimony was the best the plaintiff could do, Ms. Wellinghorst’s case was dismissed.
 
A legal case is like a chain in that it is only as strong as its weakest link.  Competent attorneys will test every link to its limits.  In this case, the weak link that broke the case was the expert testimony.  In our cases, we hire the right experts who are knowledgeable and experienced, and are able to communicate effectively in a courtroom.
 

Archived Posts

2017
2016
2015
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2014
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

← Newer12 3 Older →


Richard F. Silber is admitted to practice in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. From his office in Georgetown, he and his legal team assist clients throughout the Washington metropolitan area.



© 2018 Richard F. Silber, Attorney at Law | Disclaimer
3221 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007
| Phone: 202-338-0687

Personal Injury | Medical Malpractice | Nursing Home Abuse | Automobile Accidents | Wrongful Death

Law Firm Website Design by
Zola Creative